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Poll: Fetterman Holds Slight Lead Over Oz In PA Sen Race; Biden's Approval Underwater In Critical Swing States; More Than 60 Percent Of PA, WI Voters Say Economy Getting Worse; Gov Races: Dems Ahead In PA, MI; Dead Heat In WI; Dem Shapiro Leads GOP's Mastriano In PA Gov Race; Confidence In 2022 Vote Breaks Along Sharp Partisan Divide; 2 Killed In Shooting At High School Near St. Louis; Soon: Biden Gives Midterm Pep Talk At DNC. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 24, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Right now, some brand-new CNN polling out of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. An important read of your midterm mood, just 15 days before we count your votes.

Plus, a disturbing reality check about what democracy looks like in 2022. Armed vigilantes donning tactical gear patrolling a ballot drop box in Arizona. And a new warning from Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the promise that if Donald Trump testifies the January 6 committee won't let him turn it into a circus. The warning in her view, nominating Trump would equal the death of the GOP as we know it.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: I think that the party has either got to come back from where we are right now, which is a very dangerous and toxic place. Or the party will splinter and there will be a new conservative party that rises. And if Donald Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party, the party will shatter and there will be a conservative party that rises in his place.


KING: Well that a bit later. But up first this hour, some just releasing, right now CNN battleground polling. New numbers from three key states just 15 days of course, from election day. The big races are closed, and voters tell us they are highly motivated to vote, but it also tell us they're in a gloomy mood about the state of the economy.

Let's begin, we'll look at two races absolutely critical for the Senate balance of power. We begin with the Pennsylvania Senate race. No incumbent on the ballot here, Republican held seat right now, Democrats hope to pick this seat up. They hope to pick it up to build on their Senate majority or to offset, maybe a loss somewhere else on the battlefield. Democrat John Fetterman has a lead 51 percent, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz 45 percent. This leads small though, just outside the polls' margin of error. Democrats hoping, they can pick up Pennsylvania as Joe Biden did. Donald Trump won it in 2016. Joe Biden did in 2020. Democrats are hoping they can pick up the Senate seat, but you see how close it is. We'll go inside these numbers in just a moment.

Let's move over to Wisconsin. A Republican incumbent there, Republicans hoped would put this seat away right now. You see these numbers, they have not. 50 percent for the Republican incumbent. 49 percent for the Democrat. The Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, no clear leader in this race.

Again, Democrats would love to have a pickup in a Republican state. Republicans confident in the end, they can close here, but you see how close this race is, as it goes in. So, what is motivating voters as we go through it? But we also pulled in Michigan, we'll get to the results in the governor's race there in a few moments.

But in these three states, these three industrial battleground states, the states that were so important remember, in the 2020 election. Donald Trump won them in 2016. Joe Biden flipped them in 2020. What's first in 2022, the economy and inflation overwhelmingly, 46 percent In Michigan, 47 percent in Wisconsin, 44 percent in Pennsylvania.

That would lead you to believe the climate is favorable to Republicans because voters are mad at the current state, and they take that out on the party and power. Abortion ranks second in both states, notice a little bit higher in Michigan where there is a constitutional amendment on the ballot about abortion rights, a little bit higher there.

Voting rights and election integrity run third, as you look at this. When you see these big numbers at the top, 44, 47, 46. The bones of the poll, if you will, would suggest the climate is somewhat favorable to Republicans. But there's a lot to dissect.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, the Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, and our CNN political director, David Chalian. David, let me start with you. Most of these seats, the Senate seats. If you go back to Pennsylvania, and then Wisconsin, absolutely critical. When we get into the day after the election or the days after the election, we're trying to figure out, do the Democrats keep that majority or not? What jumps out most?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Well, and as you know, the Democrats here are looking for a bit of an insurance policy in one of these Republican held seats. But you put that issue list up, John, and I just think that tells the story, economy number one. And you said that is an environment that should advantage Republicans just to put a finer point on that.

Among those economy voters, so the 44 percent in Pennsylvania, they split 64 percent for us versus 32 percent for Fetterman. It's even more dramatic in Wisconsin, 78 percent of those economy voters go for Ron Johnson, 21 percent for Mandela Barnes. So, it is indeed, an issue that is top of mind and is clearly advantaging the Republicans.


KING: And so, as the polling professional at the table. We obviously look first at the horse race numbers. Is there anybody ahead? Is it a big lead? Is it a, you know, lead that you can catch during. When you look deep into these polls and what jumps out to you? In both these cases, it's very close, slight democratic advantage in Pennsylvania. As a Republican at the table, are those seats in play for the Democrats? Or do you see something in the bones that maybe helps Republicans in the final two weeks?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, everything's in play. And if anybody tells you, they're confident that they know exactly which way the United States Senate will go. I wish I had that kind of confidence. But I do think that inside the numbers in this poll, it's fascinating in the race between Fetterman and Oz, for instance.

Independent voters breaking pretty heavily for us. So even though the top line number shows pretty good result for Fetterman, underneath the surface, whether it's an advantage among independents, whether it's that advantage among voters who think the economy is most important.

There are things going on there that suggest to Republicans, as you get to the finish line, if they're able to, one, hang on to those voters who might be on the fence about whether they turn out at all. Those folks that might be late deciders, it seems like if those pieces are in play, they will break toward the Republican, it wouldn't surprise me if this closes even further as we get toward.

CHALIAN: And I just want to add that, so independence always, we all look at them. We're obsessed with them, right, the narrow middle of American politics. But if you look at the partisans, I think it helps explain why Fetterman is a little bit ahead. He has more consolidation among Democrats.

Dr. Oz has some work to do, Mehmet Oz does. I mean, if I were writing a to-do-list off of this poll, I would say, Oz needs to still - he's made progress, but he still has to consolidate the Republican vote in a pretty significant way. That discrepancy as well as their unfavorables, he is not as well liked, Oz is to Fetterman. I think that's why you're seeing Fetterman on top.

KING: I can back that up anecdotally from two recent trips to Pennsylvania, where you meet Republican, some Trump Republicans ask, is he one of us? Is he really one of us? And some more suburban Republicans who turned on Trump say, is he really a Trumpy? Or would he be a traditional Republican? I think that the piece of that.

One of the north stars in any midterm election was the president's approval rating. We are two weeks out now. If you look through these states right here in Pennsylvania, the president's approval rating 45, disapprove 55, in Wisconsin 43, disapprove 57, in Michigan 42, 58. That's our national poll of polls. If you look at the far right of your screen, they're pretty consistent, pretty consistent, give or take a point or two, the present United States is underwater, including, again, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan. If you're taking the 2016 map versus the 2020 map for president, adding Georgia and Arizona, those were the states that made the difference, that made Joe Biden president struggling.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Struggling very much so, and that is why as we have said time and time again, for the last several weeks that Joe Biden is not a popular asset on the campaign trail. But you do see that approval numbers a little bit higher in Pennsylvania than in other states, which is why the White House, which is why the president along with Kamala Harris, the president is making his 15th visit to Pennsylvania during his presidency this Friday for an explicit campaign event for Pennsylvania Democrats.

So, the White House believes that again, if you can at least flip Pennsylvania, that gives them a lot of breathing room for the other states that could potentially flip in the other directions such as Nevada or Georgia.

KING: We're going to talk more about this. A, the polling in the governor's race is a bit later, and then just the basic climate a bit later. But Kristen, when you look again, you look at the horse race numbers and you see very close races, then you try to look at the bones to see, you know, where's the mood of the people? How's the economy doing in your state right now? This is gloomy, and you would assume this is advantage Republicans.

In Pennsylvania 8 percent of likely voters think the economy is getting better. 63 percent say it's getting worse. In Wisconsin 10 percent of likely voters say it's getting better, 61 percent say getting worse. Michigan saying 13 percent, say it's getting better. 61 percent say it's getting worse. That is a tough environment for the Democrats. And yes, they are competitive in all these races.

ANDERSON: Well, and that's partially because the brand of the Republican Party is still suffering a bit with voters who are in the middle. The benefit Republicans have is that voters may go look, I maybe, I didn't love Donald Trump, maybe I'm not, you know, a dyed in the wool GOP.

But gosh, it feels like we need something to change. And that is the dynamic that's let Republicans even in an environment where many of these swing voters in the middle may not be in love with the GOP to nevertheless say, we've got to change something, changed - with changes in the air and you're the party out of power. That's exactly where you want to be headed into election.

KING: I get kind of nerdy sometimes, you go deep into the weeds of polling. It's what I do to try to understand the American election night, but I'm nowhere in then David Chalian. I want to get----

CHALIAN: I'll take the nerdy. KING: No, while you're smarter. I mean, the point I'm trying to make is that you're smarter. But one of the questions, so you're a voter in one of these states, right? Are you voting on the issues, right? You care about Medicare, you care about the economy, whatever your issue at home, are you voting? Oh, wait a minute, this race could determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives of the United States Senate in the case of these Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Senate races.

So, we asked, are you voting for a candidate based on their issue positions or the party control of the Senate. In Pennsylvania 48 percent of likely voters said because of the issue positions. 27 percent said, which party would control the Senate. You see the numbers in Wisconsin 45 to 20. A higher number there, if you want to call that - is that strategic voting, a higher number of Pennsylvania seems to be thinking about it. Take us inside.


CHALIAN: Yes. I love this question. I think these results are fascinating because they're so different in these two battleground States. In Pennsylvania, the swath of voters that are the 27 percent you noted who are strategically voting, they say that party control is a big factor in their vote, that actually is benefiting us, the Republican right?

In Wisconsin, the reverse is true. The 20 percent Wisconsin who say their strategic voters that are concerned about control the Senate. They're actually favoring Mandela Barnes against the incumbent Ron Johnson there.

So, you have two different stories being told about how those strategic voters are playing it. I would also just note, the character, the integrity, that issue, it's down on the list here. It does not, you know, about half as many say that that matters to their voters the major factor as the candidate policy positions.

KIM: What I thought was so interesting about the strategic voters, question, especially in Pennsylvania is how much it broke for us because Fetterman for months in his campaign had kind of been campaigning on that strategic voting method. He keeps saying, he's going to be the 51st vote in the Senate for abortion to bust the filibuster on union rights.

And it seems that, at least if you're - what really matters to you is that is who controls the - who controls the Senate. It's actually Republicans who are favored in that part. And I think that's the calculation that particularly a lot of voters in Georgia are making, especially with the personal shortcomings of the Republican candidate there, but many voters are overlooking that says, I want a Republican representing me in the Senate.

ANDERSON: Just a matter of dynamic in a runoff (crosstalk) then, a lot of strategic voting going on.

KING: We'll talk about election night in America. election week in America, we might have election month in America, we'll see. Up next. some more of our fascinating new polling, the races for governor in battlegrounds, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. And a bit later, historic decision today in the U.K., the country taps its next prime minister, its third just this year.




KING: More now from our brand-new CNN polling, look at the governor's races in three critical swing states, two Michigan and Pennsylvania, hint at least the numbers show two weeks out. Democrats appear to have pretty good our odds. In Michigan, the Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, you see right there leads the Republican nominee, Tudor Dixon 52 percent to 46 percent. That's outside the margin of error.

And in Pennsylvania, the Democrat Josh Shapiro, he's currently the attorney general close a 15-point advantage over the Republican nominee Doug Mastriano. In Wisconsin, though, take a peek there, the polling there are no clear leader of pretty much a dead heat in the matchup between the incumbent Democrat Tony Evers, Republican challenger Tim Michels. Evers maybe at 50 to 48 percent.

Right here are great reporters and our Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson is back with us. This was, I just want to put up. Number one, these are critical elections in the states, the governor of your state is critical to you, especially in the age when the Supreme Court says, abortion rights is a state issue, where it may be other state issues do as well. But these are also, these are states that Donald Trump won in 2016. And then were flipped by Joe Biden in 2020. The American politics in the next 10 years, going to be largely decided in those three states.

ANDERSON: They're enormously important. But it's also important to remember that for governor's races, they're usually a little less tethered to the national political environment and partisanship than races for say something like the United States Senate. I mean, we've got what - how many Republican governors in the Northeast right now in a state like Vermont.

And so, you can see how these races for governor in some states might be a little more disconnected or, you know, determined by candidate quality Pennsylvania, for instance. A state where Republicans have the ability to be competitive, and yet, in that governor's race, not really looking like it. But it's important to remember that governor's race is fundamentally different because of the issue set that's involved.

KING: You just use the term a lot of Republicans use candidate quality. When they're talking about a race, that maybe they thought six months ago might be in play that seems to be slipping away, or at least less competitive than you think. If you get, if you look at Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer 52, Tudor Dixon 46, if you go to Pennsylvania 56, 41. And those two states, if you go back to the beginning of the year, Republicans thought Democratic president should be a good midterm climate for us. That could be an example we get the days after the election about candidate quality, the issues positions, and you mentioned earlier in the case of Mastriano, there are some character questions.

KIM: Character questions, certainly in Pennsylvania, and we're talking about party consolidation behind each candidates. You're looking at 99 percent of Democrats, who say they will vote for Josh Shapiro. You have 82, I believe that the figure was 82 percent of Republicans who will vote for Mastriano. That's a pretty big difference in the number of people they're able to consolidate behind them.

And you know, when you have your sitting Republican Senator Pat Toomey say, he will proudly vote for Oz for the Senate, but will not say a word about Mastriano. I don't think he will not weigh in on that race. That is a message to voters of Pennsylvania that this is a guy who's the - again, candidate quality issue is a question here.

CHALIAN: We should just remind folks, Mastriano was a committed election denier in the position of governor in Pennsylvania appoints the secretary of state, that's not an elected position. So, whoever wins the governor's race is going to be able to put the person in charge of election oversight. And John, you looked at the map and you're comparing 16 to 20.

I mean, to me, that is part of the joy of this particular midterm cycle in '22. We're dealing with really competitive contests in the presidential battleground. And so, this is going to tee up. How these Governor races go sets the tone in these critical states for 2024, which is obviously right around the corner.

KING: And because there are those critical battleground states, and if you look at him here, again, just think about where have we had. You mentioned Mastriano, election denier. Where we had big conversations about the election results? Well, that would be in - let me get this to work here that would be in Wisconsin, that would be in Michigan, that would be in Pennsylvania.

So, we asked this question in our poll. Are you confident that your ballot will be cast (Ph) that you'll the integrity of the election, both from casting your ballot and accountability? Are you confident in that? In Pennsylvania, 70 percent say yes, 30 percent, three in 10 likely voters say no. In Wisconsin, pretty close to the same, 73 percent say they're confident, 26 percent more than a quarter that they're not confident. In Michigan 66 percent say yes, 34 percent say they're not confident.


This, I call this the cancer in American democracy right now. And I blame it on people who continue to say Donald Trump won when he did not. In the sense that if you have three in 10 likely voters saying they're not confident either and how they cast their ballot or the count? Where does that take us? ANDERSON: It's really scary. And frankly, you know, when you ask voters, to what extent they're worried about threats to democracy, and so on and so forth. Republicans and Democrats will both say that they're concerned about the future of our democracy, though, for very different reasons. Democrats will often point to things like changes to voter laws that they believe are making it harder for people to vote, harder for legitimate votes to be cast.

Republicans, on the other hand, more concerned that their own vote isn't being cast or that other votes that shouldn't be cast are. There's a lot of concern out there about the future of democracy. But what's even more troubling is we're very divided about what the problems aren't even in the first place.

KING: What the problems are. And just as a somewhat different question, but NBC ask this in a national poll that was released over the weekend, about election confidence. 20 percent said no, 20 percent said they were not confident, right. If you look at those battleground states, again, where we've had the biggest fights about 2020, it's 30 percent in Pennsylvania, 26 percent in Wisconsin, 34 percent in Michigan, so it's even higher in the states where we have fought this out.

At some point, we all have to come to a consensus about how this works and how we count. We can do that, regardless of party. Ahead for us, a stark warning from a veteran democratic pollster. His message, the party is not singing the right tune to voters.




KING: Breaking news, there was shock and sadness in St. Louis this hour. Authorities say, two people were killed, one teenager and one adult in a shooting at a high school this morning. CNN's Brynn Gingras is here with the latest. Brynn, what else do we know?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a devastating update here, John. We just got this information from Chief Michael Stack. He is the interim chief there at St. Louis police department. He sort of went through the timeline for us of what exactly happened at Central Visual and Performing High School get a student body of about 400 people. He said about 9:10 am is when officers got the call about an active shooter inside that high school.

They responded, "without hesitation" they actually made entry into the school he said, and didn't know exactly where the shooter was, but got reports from students who were fleeing that school that there was a shooter inside, then they actually heard gunshots and ran toward that location. And that's when the chief said that police officers engaged with that shooter hitting him and it is believed that he did die according to this police chief, that he died at that hospital while he was being transported there. As you said, John, two people, we know of that were killed in this incident. One adult from a belief to be gunshot wound died at the hospital, and another was a teenage girl who died there at the scene. There are eight people in total that were transported to the hospital. Again, according to this chief of police.

Now, at this point, what he understands is the injuries of those that were injured are about gunshot injuries, shrapnel injuries, as you can imagine with an active shooter situation. And at this point, authorities have cleared that screws school, they don't believe there are any other threats.

However, they did say that this shooter believed to be about 20 years old. So not a student at the high school. They're still trying to ID him, figure out what his relationship is to this high school. But he did have a car there on the scene. So, authorities, as part of the investigation are going to go through that car, determine if there are other threats with that car as well.

So yes, just a devastating incident. We're still trying to get reports of exactly who this person was. What sort of injuries we're talking about here. But again, John, two people killed in yet another high school shooting in America.

KING: Yet another. Brynn, thank you for the latest. We know, you'll stay on top of the story. Come back to us if there's new information, you say yet another 65 school shootings at least, 65 school shootings this year, 51 of them at K through 12 level schools.

Back to politics now. President Biden do to deliver a pep talk, a bit later today at the Democratic Party headquarters. Where he is just two weeks out here in Washington, not out on the trail speaks volumes. Most candidates in tough races think a Biden visit would hurt more than it would help. What the president is saying, is also getting some tough scrutiny from members of his own party.

Part of the president's speech today, we are told will highlight strong jobs numbers. They are strong and a recent dip in gas prices. Some Democrats that were worried, the president's message simply does not fit the midterm mood. "It's our worst performing message" that from the veteran pollster, Stan Greenberg, that from a blistering interview with POLITICO.

Greenberg goes on to say, "it is said to the voters that this election is about my accomplishments as a leader and not about the challenges you are experiencing. Also joining this public debate about the Democrats midterm message, Senator Bernie Sanders.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: I am worried about the level of voter turnout among young people and working people who will be voting democratic. And I think again, what Democrats have got to do is contrast their economic plan with Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Joining our conversation is NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, and Jeff Mason of Reuters, Seung Min Kim of the AP still with us. Stan Greenberg, veteran democratic pollster. I met Stan back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He says the president is wrong. That the president should not be saying, hey, things are pretty good. He should start more with I know things are tough. The White House agree or disagree?

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, 'WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY' AND 'UP FIRST': Well, I mean right now you see them wanting to tout their accomplishments, and definitely anytime gas goes down by a penny or two pennies, they want to come out here and hold the whole, you know, cheerleading competition about it. Like because that's they, you know, they want to say look, we are doing something.

I will say though that, you know, we sit here at this table, this is our job, you know, I love being here, I love talking about politics.